The Carbon Dioxide Makes Plants Less Nutritious, Shows New Study

The Carbon Dioxide Makes Plants Less Nutritious, Shows New Study

As carbon dioxide rises due to the burning of fossil fuels, rice will lose some of its protein and vitamin content, putting millions of people at risk of malnutrition, scientists warned on Wednesday.

"There's been studies over the past hundred years for the importance of these B vitamins", Kristie Ebi, a public health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the authors of the study. If the rice nutritional value suffers, it will have an impact on the development of several millions of children.

CO2 levels in the atmosphere keep increasing, as they reached a record high in April, and since this greenhouse gas helps plants grows, its radically changing the nutrient content in food crops.

"This technique allows us to test the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on plants growing in the same conditions that farmers really will grow them some decades later in this century", said Kobayashi.


"I haven't seen anything about the vitamins, that was new in this paper", Rice said, "but there's other reports that show, or ate least model and have done some lab estimates, that anywhere from 2 to 10 percent less protein content for grains under [an] elevated Carbon dioxide environment".

The findings suggested that such a nutritional loss would have serious consequences on the poorest citizens of some of the least-developed countries, who heavily depend on rice as a staple in their diets. This was also true in Japan during the 1960s, but current Japanese receive only about 20 percent of their daily food energy from rice. Wheat, maize, rice, field peas and soybeans grown under high carbon dioxide conditions were found to have lower levels of protein and minerals. For the first time, research reveals that vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B9, all of which are important to the body's ability to turn food into energy, decrease in rice as carbon dioxide levels increased. "Folate [vitamin B9] declines across the nine rice varieties ranged from 10 percent to 45 percent".

As global temperatures rise in response to ever greater levels of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, harvests of all the staple cereals could in any case decline - sometimes as a response to ever wilder extremes of heat, rain and windstorm - by between 20 and 40%. The level of nutrition in plants can also affect many other living things, even bees, pandas and koalas, who live on plants - the only nutrition they get. "Reductions in the nutritional quality of rice could affect maternal and child health for millions of people".

The change could be particularly dire in southeast Asia where rice is a major part of the daily diet, said the report in the journal Science Advances. For instance, the rice variety Liang You 84 (a hybrid style grown in China) lost around 45 percent of its vitamin B9 content whereas the Koshihikari rice (a short-grained sushi rice from Japan) lost roughly 30 percent of its B9 content in the elevated carbon scenarios. But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.

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